Electrolyte Tablets vs Powder: Which Should I Use?

When trying to decide which electrolyte supplements to use, there are many different brands and options. Electrolyte supplements come in a variety of different forms, including tablets, powders, capsules, concentrates, and drinks, but electrolyte tablets and powders are two of the most popular forms. When trying to decide between electrolyte tablets vs powder, which should you use?

Electrolyte Tablets vs Electrolyte Powder

Two of the most common types of electrolyte supplements are electrolyte tablets and electrolyte powders. Both of these types of supplements need to be dissolved in water, so people who choose to use them need to have clean water at their disposal (usually at least 16 ounces). Electrolyte tablets are easy to use and carry and typically come packed in a plastic tube that helps prevent them from cracking or breaking. When preparing to use an electrolyte tablet, the user will simply drop one tablet into a water bottle or cup that contains the required amount of clean water. The tablet should dissolve on its own without any need to shake or stir the water. Electrolyte powders, on the other hand, are very lightweight and often come in single use packets or “sticks.” One packet is considered one serving of the powder. Because of their light weight, powders are convenient for people who want to carry electrolytes with them while running, walking, hiking, or traveling. When ready to use an electrolyte tablet, the user will add the powder to the required amount of clean water. Although the majority of electrolyte powders are intended to be dissolved in 16 ounces of clean water, it is important to check and make sure that you are using the recommended amount of water, as every powder is different. Electrolyte powders can mask the taste of water that is less than delicious, but the powder will not always dissolve completely. You’ll likely be left with some powdery residue at the bottom of your drink.

Other Types of Electrolyte Supplements

If the idea of dissolving a tablet or powder into your water doesn’t appeal to you, you’re not alone. Lest you think that your only options for an electrolyte supplement are tablets and powders, there actually several other types of electrolyte supplements, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. 

Electrolyte capsule

If carrying around a bottle of water and drinking your electrolytes doesn’t appeal to you, electrolyte capsules might be a better option. Electrolyte capsules are an extremely convenient way to replace electrolytes because they are lightweight, convenient, and easy to pack, and you don’t need to do any preparation or have access to lots of clean water in order to use them. Some people take electrolyte capsules before, during, or after a workout or endurance activity, while others take them the morning after a late night out or while sick in order to support hydration and balance fluid levels. People with sensitive stomachs may experience some minor side effects while taking electrolyte capsules because they deliver a large, concentrated amount of electrolytes at once. 

Electrolyte concentrate

Electrolyte concentrates are a different type of dissolvable electrolyte supplement. Unlike electrolyte tablets and powders, which often leave a gritty residue behind and may not dissolve completely. Electrolyte concentrates are drops of concentrated electrolytes that are dropped into water. When taken with a squeeze of lemon or lime, electrolyte concentrates can mask the taste of water for people who do not enjoy it. In order to use electrolyte concentrates, you will need at least 12 ounces of clean water, which is slightly less than the 16 ounces required by most powders.

Electrolyte drink

Many people are familiar with electrolyte drinks, which are commonly sold in the form of commercial sports drinks. Most commercial sports drinks contain lots of unnecessary calories, carbohydrates, and added sugars in addition to the electrolytes you need. In fact, it is common for commercial sports drinks to contain more sugar than a can of soda. Commercial sports drinks are premade, so they are convenient to grab on the go, and you can find them in any convenience store or grocery store. However, they are bulky to carry with you when traveling a long distance or doing a long workout. People who want to limit their intake of calories, carbohydrates, added sugars, and artificial ingredients should steer clear of electrolyte drinks. 

How to Take Electrolyte Supplements

Based on the commercials for popular sports drinks, you might think that you need a lot of calories, carbohydrates, and added sugar to fuel your workout and rehydrate properly. In reality, electrolyte supplements that do not contain these ingredients and other artificial junk are just as effective at correcting electrolyte imbalances and preventing dehydration as sports drinks without all of the calories and sugar. Although some people, such as endurance athletes performing workouts that are multiple hours in length, can benefit from consuming carbohydrates, sugar, and calories during a workout, these additives simply aren’t necessary for most people. Therefore, electrolyte supplements that contain no carbs, sugar, or calories are the best solution for most people because they won’t undo your hard work at the gym. These electrolytes support muscle gain and recovery, reduce the risk of experiencing heat stress, and minimize cramps and joint pain just as well without the junk.  Although each person’s electrolyte needs will vary depending on how much you sweat and your personal activity schedule,  the Institute of Medicine provides general daily intake recommendations for electrolytes. A daily intake of 2,000 mg or less of sodium is recommended, as well as 4,700 mg of potassium and 330-350 mg per day of magnesium for men and 255-265 mg per day for women. 

How to Add Electrolytes to Water

Depending on which type of electrolyte supplement you decide to use, you may need to add your electrolytes to water. Electrolyte capsules and electrolyte drinks do not need to be mixed with water, but tablets, powders, and concentrates do.  The method is a bit different depending on which form of electrolytes you are using.

  • Electrolyte tablet: Adding electrolyte tablets to water is about as simple as it gets because the tablets are already portioned out. Just add one tablet to 16 ounces of clean water (or the amount indicated on the tablet tube) and let the tablet dissolve. No shaking or stirring should be required in order to help the tablet dissolve, as it should begin to dissolve and fizz on its own. 
  • Electrolyte powder: Dissolving electrolyte powder in water is not much different than dissolving an electrolyte tablet if the powder comes preportioned. If using electrolyte powder that comes in a packet, just add one packet of the powder to 16 ounces of water or the amount of water indicated on the packet. Other electrolyte powders come in a large canister, in which case you will use the enclosed scoop to portion out one serving of the powder and add to water. Make sure to shake or stir the water bottle after adding the power in order to help the powder dissolve properly. 
  • Electrolyte concentrate: Electrolyte concentrate is produced in a liquid form and comes in a bottle that should contain a dropper that is marked to show the amount of milliliters being added. As a rule of thumb,, one milliliter is dissolved into 12 ounces of water. One serving of electrolyte concentrate is typically three milliliters, which would be dissolved into 36 ounces of water. It is not recommended to consume more than eight servings of electrolyte concentrate in one 24-hour period.
  • How Often to Use Electrolyte Supplements

    How often you need to use electrolyte supplements varies from person to person and will depend in part on your activity level. Children and senior citizens are more likely to experience dehydration than other age groups, so they may benefit from regular use of electrolyte supplements. People who are excessive sweaters, particularly those who maintain a routine exercise regimen, should use electrolyte supplements after each workout in order to rehydrate and replenish electrolyte stores. Additionally, people who are salty sweaters, as evidenced by a salty, gritty residue on your skin and clothes after a workout, should also use electrolyte supplements. People who work outdoors in hot or humid environments should replenish electrolytes each day to replace the electrolytes that are lost due to sweat. Electrolytes can also be helpful for fighting off the symptoms of a hangover after a big night out or replenishing and rehydrating when you are sick.